To continue the work of the “Tenrikyo-Christian Dialogue” Symposium held in Rome in 1998, professors of the Pontifical Gregorian University and Tenri University, together with notable representatives of the Catholic Church and of Tenrikyo and researchers from other universities, convened in Tenri on September 28-30, 2002, for the Tenri International Symposium 2002 “Education, Family, and Religion: Tenrikyo-Christian Dialogue II.” In a time of rapid changes in contemporary society, this theme is of great concern to both religious traditions.
In recent years, issues confronting the family are becoming a serious challenge for secularized societies. Lifestyles impoverished by consumerism and economic alienation have led to social disintegration and spiritual disorientation. Conditions of social injustice and poverty can have the same effect. These negative aspects of an increasing globalization, of the deficiencies in education and the breakdown of families, are “mirrors” that reflect the minds of contemporary people, who have difficulty finding meaning in life. Today, these issues have become a common agenda for all religious communities, demanding urgent attention in order to offer a creative service for humankind. Since the very notion of family bears a religious significance, Tenrikyo and Christianity must assume an ever-greater responsibility for religious family education.
We hold that the family, which is the basic unit of society, is a place to nurture religiosity and a place of education. Therefore, the family is a “small church” and a “first school.” The family forms the basis to transform the individual and the society. Thus, in this discussion drawn not only from our faith-commitments but also from psychology, sociology, educational and religious studies, we have looked for new paths to overcome the increasing trend towards self-centered conduct. The contemporary family, reflecting the rapidly changing social situation, takes diverse forms and shapes. As seen in the “individualization” of the family, the individual’s yearning for autonomy has expanded notably, and there are now voices that even announce the weakening and imminent collapse of the nuclear family. However, when viewed from a different perspective, the current developments imply that individuals can choose a way of life based on human dignity and responsibility.
In the Tenrikyo perspective, the family, comprised of husband-wife and parent-child relations, is the foundation that supports the continuation and growth of human society. Husband and wife, created through representing heaven and earth, are a paradigmatic model of horizontal human ties for all people to mutually complement and help each other. As evident from the name “God the Parent,” the parent and child relationship expresses the vertical tie between God and human beings. Thus, one fully becomes a parent in the genuine sense of the word through nurturing not only one’s own children but also all children of the next generation so that they may become useful timbers for the construction of the world of the Joyous Life.
In the Christian perspective, family is “the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2207). By the sacrament of marriage, couples become co-workers with God’s eternal love in creation. By their life of prayer and religious engagement they are the first educators of their offspring.
Through these perspectives of our religions, we conducted a discussion about the necessity in contemporary society of religious education in schools. There, we confirmed the significance of religious instruction founded on faith as well as of education about various religious experiences, as a means to live in this age of religious plurality. This is not simply a matter of knowledge about religion but also implies an understanding of what it means to live out a faith-commitment. For such purposes, we must seek to nurture teachers capable of contributing to the formation of human character founded on religion and of imparting religious education that deepens our awareness of the plurality of religious life and religious experience.
Religions propose valid alternatives to individualistic lifestyles. Coherent religious practice can enable believers to develop their own mature personality, and thereby to offer a humble service of truth to society and future generations. This will reaffirm our mission towards the world and bring about greater solidarity.
We participants intend to continue this dialogue between Tenrikyo and Christianity based on the fruits of this symposium.
September 30, 2002
The Organizing Committee of
“Tenrikyo-Christian Dialogue II”